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Thursday, 17 November 1960

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I oppose the proposed new clause for reasons which I am sure the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) would like to hear. Under this proposal the Chief Justice of Papua and New Guinea could be charged with having committed the offence of judicial corruption under the act. He would then be dragged by the hair of the head in front of a district officer or even an assistant district officer. He would be thrown into the dock, the allegations would be heard and, with all the assumed wisdom possible, the officer could declare that he had found the charge proven. This position is absolutely ludicrous. It is ridiculous that we should allow such a serious charge as this to be dealt with in such a haphazard way.

The position is bad enough in relation to mainland offences. Here, the person hearing the charge has to be a magistrate. It is bad enough to have a magistrate inquiring into allegations of judicial corruption levelled against a judge. How much worse is it when the allegations are to be inquired into by an assistant district officer! While we agree that the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General is better than the existing provision, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has pointed out, the improvement, important though it is, does not go far enough. He has shown how the act, as amended by the clause just passed, will still allow certain serious injustices to occur. He has pointed out that it will be possible for a magistrate to inquire into and determine the accuracy or otherwise of an allegation of judicial corruption against a judge. Suppose that some one saw the Chief Justice with a new fountain pen and said, "Ah! I think that that last decision that he made was crook. I bet that the bloke who got out of the charge gave that gold pen to him ". So he lays a complaint. Under the act as it now stands any private person can lay a complaint against any other person.

Mr Chresby - That has always been possible under common law.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is the learned Queen's Counsel again! He says that this has always been common law. If some native rushes up and says, in pidgin English, that Chief Justice Mann has had a fountain pen given to him in order to corrupt his decision in a case between planter " X " and houseboy " J ", and lays a charge against the Chief Justice for a breach of that section of the act which deals with judicial corruption, the case must then be proceeded with. It would be quite possible for the case to be heard by a district officer and a decision given by him against the Chief Justice.

Let us take the case of coinage offences. It is quite possible that many offences in relation to the coinage would concern property worth less than £50. This serious crime, carrying a penalty of up to seven years' imprisonment, could be tried by a district officer. The position is too absurd. I do not share the view of some people who say that because the Attorney-General has accepted certain amendments to his original legislation, he did not know what he was talking about when he prepared the bill.

Mr Ward - You told that to me privately.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I did nothing of the kind. I do not agree with those people who say that the Attorney-General is showing weakness and a lack of understanding of the issues involved simply because he has agreed to amend the bill. I applaud him for his action. But I ask him to see the wisdom of this proposal and to set a further example by saying, " I can see the value of the proposal and I will accept it ".

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